Jon Madof / Rashanim
Tzadik TZ7178, 2003
61 E. Eighth St., pmb 126
New York, NY 1003
I really enjoy listening to the guitar work of Jon Madof, especially as exemplified on this new Tzadik release, featuring his jazz trio, "Rashanim." Like many Tzadik releases, I find the music less relevant in terms of some broad genre of "Jewish" music, than exciting, interesting new music that includes Jewish influences. Madof compares some of what he plays with hasidic-inspired guitarist Yossi Piamenta, originally from Israel. In the sense that there are some Jewish melodies here, and in the way that Madof sometimes turns on the fuzz pedal and screams, there is some similarity. But, I think that we shortchange ourselves in trying to fit this sort of music into a Jewish mold. Rather, as I said, the opposite is true. A Jewish musician who has absorbed the panoply of American musics is going to reflect that amalgam in creating a person sound. Without the intentional reflection back on the Jewish community, or anchoring to specific Jewish musical traditions, I would not argue that this is not Jewish music, or Jewishly relevant music. But I rejoice in hearing music that I enjoy, which this very much is. And I like the subversive, and paradoxically validating effect of hearing Jewish melody and rhythm mixed in with those of other cultures.
This ia all a long-winded way of saying that I don't understand some of the press material relating to this band referring to the music as "klezmer", despite opening with a delightfully-fuzzed guitar ripping apart "Der Khusid Geyt Tantsn". I think that this melding of styles is better illustrated by Madof's take on "V'Shamru," bluesy riffs merging with a folky take on Jewish prayer. Another side of Madof's guitar work lies in the intricate picking of two traditional melodies, "Dovid Melech Yisrael/Lecha Dodi", or his own "Brooklyn Dance," in a manner more reminiscent of, if also more improvised than, the work of Tim Sparks. "Brooklyn Dance," of course, quickly moves into more generalized territory. Similarly, consider the Sephardic melodies of "Fel Shara/Üsk¨dar". But to focus on this that might also be to ignore the intricacies of tunes such as Chroma, which seems more "downtown jazz" that culturally specific, or the impressionistic picking of "Passing," which was my original point. And then, on Madof tunes such as "Chanshe's nign," despite the implication in the name that this is Jewish, the music reflects, again, much more than specifically Jewish melody. The album closes with a delicate accoustic piece, "Kamancha" by Sayat Nova.
In the end, I very much like the quote which Madof placed on the CD notes, under the band listings. It has long been one of my favorite Hasidic quotes, by Rabbi Zusya: "In the coming world, they will not ask me: 'Why were you not like Moses?' They will ask me: 'Why were you not Zusya?'" I think it puts the boxes into which I, and other reviewers, have tried to fit this album, into perspective. The box isn't relevant. Making honest, interesting, new music is very relevant. And on those terms, this album is delightful.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 5/24/03
Personnel this recording:
Jon Madof: guitar
Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz: bass
Mathias Künzli: drums, percussion
- Der khusid geyt tantsn--the Hasid goes dancing (trad., arr. Jon Madof) 8:06
- Chroma (Madof) 5:17
- Meshek (Madof) 6:54
- Dovid Melech Yisrael/Lecha Dodi (Carlebach) 5:22
- Chanshe's Nign (Jon Madof) 5:05
- Fel Shara/Üsküdar (trad. Sephardic) 4:38
- Dybbuk (Jon Madof) 4:49
- Brooklyn Dance (Jon Madof) 3:27
- Passing (Jon Madof) 3:52
- V'Shamru (Rabbi Moshe Rothblum) 6:21
- Kamancha (Sayat Nova) 2:21